General Lafayette’s L’Hermione Sails Into U.S. Harbors

Replica of France’s 18th century frigate makes maiden cross-Atlantic voyage

By Carolyn Worthington

Few events are more awe-inspiring than the Tall Ships Festival, the annual sailing event that floats between the three locations of the Great Lakes, the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of North America.

This year the event takes place on the East Coast. The 19-ship fleet will be heralded by “L’Hermione,” an exact replica of the sailing warship which brought General Lafayette 235 years ago to help General George Washington in the Revolutionary War.

L’Hermione is a project of passion

“The Hermione,” the 216 foot ship just arrived on American shores from Rochefort, France and will participate in several Tall Ships events as well as make other stops along the coast.

The three-masted ship took almost 20 years to build in the Atlantic coastal town located in the Poitou-Charentes region, the heart of Cognac Hermione country.

The birth of the project to replicate “L’Hermione” was hatched by a few adventurous spirits at Rochefort City Hall who wanted to revive the city. Their goal was “to bring back Rochefort” to the glory days of King Louis XIV who wished to make Rochefort “the biggest and most beautiful establishment in the world.”

Why not, they thought, bring Rochefort back to the river and to the sea, to the days when the French, “Arsenal de Rochefort”, was King Louis XIV’s vision for the biggest and most beautiful naval base in the land.

Their only problem was there were no longer any ships. The group agreed the best way to symbolize the history of a great arsenal was to build a ship there and to construct it the way ships were made in the past.

They settled upon “L’Hermione,” the warship named after the daughter of Helen of Troy and the vessel that carried the 20-year old Marquis de Lafayette to meet up with George Washington. The dream was to create a ship that would “carry in her hold the values of friendship and mutual assistance between nations.”

hermoine map from france to us from friends of hermoine america brochureL’Hermione project not always easy sailing

Although the original Hermione was built in six months, this project was an even more enormous undertaking with considerable financial investment and volunteer involvement.

Although the shipwrights scrupulously kept to the historical dimensions and materials, their desire to make it an exact replica conceded to the need for a few modern amenities such as an engine, showers for the crew, and a modern anchoring system. Surely Lafayette would have approved.

The 1200 ton, 185 foot high, 216 foot long ship boasts 26 canons, 1000 pulleys, 15 miles of ropes, 34 guns and 78 crew including 15 professional sailors, 4 from the National Navy, 57 volunteers and Captain Yann Cariou, age 53. The average age of the crew is 29 years and one third are women.

Today the dream that began so long ago in Rochefort is a reality. The Atlantic crossing began on April 18 at the mouth of the River Charente in Port des Barques where Lafayette originally boarded on March 10, 1780 and took approximately 27 days.

The Hermione Book Published

To learn more about the project from conception to building plans as well as interviews with many of those involved, the 240-page, full-color coffee table style book, The Hermione, Lafayette’s Warship and the American Revolution, (de Monza Publisher) by Emmanuel de Fontainieu, Segolene Royal with a forward by Henry Kissinger is a must read. This gorgeous book provides a museum quality experience with detailed descriptions of the thrilling accomplishments of Lafayette and his legendary warship in support of the colonists’ cause during the American Revolutionary War.

Where to see L’Hermione

The first stops included Norfolk, Yorktown, Mount Vernon, Alexandria (Washington, DC), Annapolis, MD, Baltimore and more as listed below.

The City of Rochefort, the department of Charente-Maritime and the Poitou-Charentes region formed the original vital partnership for this impressive project. Today, they are supported by The Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America whose president is Miles Young, chairman and CEO of Ogilvy and Mather Worldwide. The board of directors is chaired by Henry Kissinger.

You can see and board L’Hermione in all of its glory at these ports:

Philadelphia June 25 – 28 (Tall Ships Festival)
New York, July 1 to 4th (Tall Ships Festival)
Newport, RI, July 8 – 9
Boston, July 11 to 12
Castine, Maine, July 14 – 15
Lunenburg, Canada, July 18
Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, a French territory near Canada, July 23
Return to France to Brest, August 10 to 17
Return to Rochefort, end of August

The motto of the Lafayette family was “Cur non” or “Why not,” symbolizing that anything is achievable. The Hermione certainly symbolizes this spirit.

To learn more about L’Hermione, visit:

Official L’Hermione website

France Tourism Information

Poitou-Charentes region, France


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Subscribe to Healthy Aging® Magazine

The Premier Lifestyle Magazine for All Ages

Receive four digital issues delivered to your inbox. Just $24.95